Introduction
75 years ago, the final chapter of World War II in Europe was being written. Out of the debris of the Battle of the Bulge came the resurrection of the Allied advance on the Third Reich. However the most challenging obstacle still lay ahead: The Rhine River.
On 25MAR1945, combined with an amphibious assault, Operation "Varsity" was launched with elements of the US 17th Airborne Division and the British 6th Airborne Division dropping behind enemy lines to secure a bridgehead across the river.

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The 75th Anniversary of  Operation "Varsity" would
have been an event to remember. 
History wanted it otherwise.

75th Anniversary
2019 & 2020 were supposed to go down in history as the years in which the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two in 1944-’45 were celebrated. The commemorations in light of D-Day in June, Market Garden in September and the Battle of the Bulge in December of 2019 were larger in scale and media coverage than ever.
 

click images to enlarge:

Normandy, France, D-Day Commemorations in June 2019

Wreath laying ceremony at the monument to BG Don F. Pratt, at Brévands and
with BG Brian E. Winski, Commanding Officer of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
Click here for more details on the 75th anniversary of D-Day

Holland Market Garden Commemorations in September 2019

Wreath laying ceremony at the Airborne Monuments in Eindhoven and Heeswijk-Dinther

Belgian Ardennes, Battle of the Bulge Commemorations in December 2019

Wreath laying ceremony at the monument to the 326th Airborne Medical Company at Barriere Hinck
(read our article about this monument here)
and the traditional throwing of nuts from Bastogne's town hall balcony with MG Winksi participating.

COVID-19
But then a serious threat to human health, a virus known as COVID-19; short for Corona Virus Disease 2019, made an end to every planned event; worldwide.
Early in March 2020 it was already known that American veterans would not attend the commemorative events for "Varsity" because of their higher health risk when infected with the virus. When the month progressed all events were cancelled of postponed.

Hamminkeln, Germany, Operation "Varsity" monuments in March 2020

No wreaths at all at the war monument in Hamminkeln, the plaques on the town hall wall
and the 52nd Light Infantry marker at the railway station. Pictures taken on 29MAR2020

COVID-19 will be well remembered in the years to come like other historic pandemics such as the Black Plague in the 14th century and the Spanish Flu shortly after the end of the First World War.
 
Commemoration
One of the events cancelled because of the COVID-19 threat was the planned opening of a small museum about Operation "Varsity" in an electrical power relay station outside the German town of Hamminkeln today.
Our friend Olaf Prinz from nearby Mehrhoog bought the old “Stromturm” or power tower, refurbished it and renamed it the "Liberation Tower" with several items from the airborne operation on display.

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(left) The power tower when we visited it on 23MAR2019
(right) Olaf Prinz inside the tower showing part of the exhibition

The local news had an informing item about it which we translated into English.

Power tower is now the "Liberation Tower"
The Mehrhooger Olaf Prinz has taken over and renovated the power tower on Thülenweg road from the Westnetz power supply company. An exhibition shows finds and photos from the airborne operation on March 24, 1945 Hamminkeln.
Anyone who drives along the Thülenweg between Hamminkeln and Blumenkamp knows the slim, tall electricity tower that stands on the edge of the roadway. Also from the B473 highway the building, which protrudes from the landscape in the middle of the fields, is clearly visible. But what so far hardly anyone knows: This is home to a small but exquisite exhibition on two floors, which celebrates the liberation of the right Lower Rhine from National Socialism and which deals specifically with the airborne operation called "Operation Varsity" 75 years ago on March 24, 1945.

The neighbors came with the idea
Olaf Prinz is the man behind the "Liberation Tower" as he proudly calls it. The Mehrhoog artist had heard of the idea that the electricity tower's direct neighbors actually came up with. The concept stood and was also approved by the former Westnetz tower owner. Unfortunately for neighbors it was suddenly no longer possible to build a memorial for family reasons. Prinz heard about this and jumped into the breach as a history buff, who had been particularly interested in the Second World War in Hamminkeln and the surrounding area for years. He spent a lot of time clearing out, cleaning and renovating the tower. New electronics, new plaster, a new staircase, concrete ceiling closures there, concrete ceiling openings here ...
It was a lot of work, but it was really worth it when you look into the tower. The Hamminkeln towns people should be able to have this look on March 24th from 2 p.m. The former tower station in Heiderott was to be inaugurated as the “Liberation Tower”. And then the corona virus came. A big initiation of course is out of the question these days, even if everything is actually ready, except for the few small things that still have to be settled on the last minute in such projects.

click to enlarge:

Items on display inside the Liberation Tower in Hamminkeln

Relics found in the pastures
But where did Olaf Prinz get all the exhibits from? The answer sounds incredible. From the farmers in the area. After all, this is exactly where the airborne operation took place. From 10 a.m., 1702 engine planes flew in and towed 1,326 troop carrying gliders. Two British brigades and two US regiments soared on parachutes into the fields between Wesel and Hamminkeln. And there was a lot of material left on the ground. A nose wheel of a British glider is in the exhibition here, leftover glass ampoules for medicine, because an aid station had been set up in the woods near the Schill Barracks. Even today, farmers find silent witnesses to the air landing while plowing. But much was also recycled on the farms in the region after the war. Because there wasn't much. The wheel of a German tank that someone nearby had used for his dovecote on the farm hangs on the wall. Olaf Prinz and a friend were allowed to remove it from the ruins. And a resourceful farmer had also used the rollers and runners of a former glider to build a trailer that had now blessed the time, which is why the old parts are now hanging in the "Liberation Tower".


Keep monitoring this page for a future update when we finally get to visit the Liberation Tower

EXHIBITIONS:

 click thumbnails to enlarge:

When we first visited the Area of Operations of "Varsity" in 2017

(left) wreath laying ceremony with British paras and the mayor of Hamminkeln,
Olaf Prinz demonstrating an M3 .45 caliber machine gun
and a historical vehicle ride out in March 2019

Back to Commemoration Page

 
 
 
 
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